In just a few decades the nature of work – what we do and how we do it and with whom – has radically transformed itself – triggered by technological and business model innovation, globalization, and changing expectations of the next generation of employees and co-workers. To tap the promise of growth & innovation, the human side needs to be addressed. Talking to more than 1500 CEOs of global organizations, IBM consultants found that these leaders cited creativity and integrity as the top two leadership qualities required to lead in the new economic environment. (Source: IBM’s Global CEO Study 2010)
When we explain to others what we do, we tend to reference certain business trends. So, how exactly do technological and business model trends relate to an increased need for improved collaboration?
- Technological Innovation
Decentralized & virtual forms of collaboration are now common and continue to evolve driven by technological advances; the workplace is not a place anymore – challenging our inherited ways to organize and negotiate how we want to work together.
Vertically integrated bureaucracies are increasingly replaced by temporary hierarchies and forms of ad-hoc peer collaboration – challenging how we make decisions together and what power and status mean to get work done.
We don’t live in homogeneous environments anymore where people were raised with similar (and rather rigid) ideas about work, life, and social norms. Psychological studies show that people tend to overly “assume similarity”, in other words, the way I like it is the way you like it. Individuals & teams are challenged to avoid making assumptions and to actively discuss work styles & work expectations.
- Business Model Innovation
Across industries and departments, many professionals experience a tighter integration of work processes and more intensive partnering. In fact, more than 40% of organizations change their enterprise model to be more collaborative (Source: IBM’s Global CEO Study 2008). Implementing such challenges successfully on a personal and organizational level requires increased attention to the human aspects of what enables collaboration.
- Engagement is Key
Passion drives performance! That’s easy to say and hard to put in place. Engagement, described as alignment of thinking, feeling, and acting, is a quintessential characteristic of every high-performing team. Yet many organizations struggle to create and maintain a culture that elicits engagement. Less of a quarter of employees describe themselves as fully engaged. For better or worse, organizations have the greatest impact on engagement. (Source: Towers Perrin Global Workforce Study 2007)
- Increased Complexity & Ambiguity
Increased connectivity and tighter process integration come at the cost of increased complexity. Too few people we talk to feel that their teams have the culture and processes in place to effectively respond to the complex business challenges they face. Consequences of decisions cannot always be clear – adding strain to the joint decision-making process. Yet decisions must be made. Getting accountability and commitment – and true commitment to action requires trust and clarity about the “rules of engagement” or “operation agreement” teams want to impose for themselves.
- Generational Shift of Workers
Younger employees expect – and demand – more choice to define their work experience. Increasingly, we meet people who want to work by choice – not by obligation. Different expectations in regard to leadership, inclusion in decision-making, feedback & communication, work/life balance, pace of career development, etc. require an active dialogue among members of different generational groups in order to fully utilize the strengths and gifts each generation has to offer.
- Creativity & Innovation – Key Drivers for Value Creation
…but breaking out of the status quo and considering new possibilities comes with risks. In fact, “breakthrough, game-changing innovation rarely emerges from established businesses!” (Source: HBR 12/2008, Reinventing your business model) Few teams have the cohesion and mutual trust to invite and to leverage diversity of thought – and to jointly step into the risks and ambiguities of innovation.